The ringing phone interrupted their good-byes. Doreen picked up the receiver. “Can I speak to Max please,” the female voice was breathless. “May I say who is calling?” Doreen asked. “Just tell him Wanda,” the woman answered. Doreen handed her husband the phone. “I’ll be in around six,” Max said after a moment. He turned to Doreen, “That was the event coordinator. “There is a welcome dinner this evening.” “Bye Darling, give me a call when you get to Vegas.” Doreen gave her husband’s cheek an adoring kiss and squeezed his shoulder in a half hug. Max gave a little shrug dislodging her arm then gave her hand a conciliatory pat. “Break a leg, Sweetheart,” Doreen smiled.
The marriage was a happy one. Doreen made sure it was. She had married a man whom she had loved from the moment she saw him, and he was a doctor. “It was the only thing to do,” she grinned, “I’m a hypochondriac.” Max was a very good doctor. He specialized in trauma medicine which fit Doreen’s plan because she was a mite clumsy. “I couldn’t afford the bills if I had to pay a doctor every time I got hurt,” she would laugh after Max patched up the cuts and bruises which were weekly occurrences.
Max wanted to live on a boat. Doreen made the boat a cozy home. He wanted to sail around the world; Doreen enthusiastically threw herself into preparations for the voyage. She kept things shipshape and running like a fine Swiss watch. Max was the Captain; she was navigator, cook, helmsman, radio operator and deckhand. Their boat was the center of activity at the marina. The aroma of fine food and gay laughter often floated from “North Star” on the ocean breeze. Doreen entertained effortlessly. Max was confident, when he called at four or five to tell her he had invited company for dinner that night, she would greet his guests with gourmet fare and a happy welcoming smile.
Because of his medical expertise, Max was often asked to speak in front of large groups. Tall, well built and handsome, His features contorted when he spoke with friends about the speaking engagements. He was terrified of speaking in front of large groups. His solution for stage fright was tequila. Not all the time, he assured his friends and partners, just when he was faced with large groups.
Max’s frequent speaking engagements took him to Las Vegas several times a year. He liked Las Vegas so much that he returned often, even when he did not have speaking engagements. Doreen was never invited to Las Vegas. She had asked to be included but Max assured her she would be bored. Gambling was not one of her interests anyway, she told friends.
“Oh, Honey,” Doreen switched off the recorder as Max reached the main dock on his way to the taxi, “be sure to let me know what time you will be getting back. I’ll make reservations at George’s.” “Ok,” Max answered, “I’m going to stay a couple extra days to unwind.” “Sure, Honey, just let me know,” Doreen’s happy voice sailed to Max on the cool breeze, as her bright smile slipped into an uneasy frown. Quickly, she ducked her head and switched on the tape recorder to the Italian lesson on which she was working and bent back to polishing the winches. Doreen planned to have all the brass and wood polished before Max returned from his speaking engagement at the medical convention. That would make him very happy. Doreen smiled in anticipation and began to polish in earnest.
Italian was turning out to be fairly easy. Doreen had studied Spanish last year and was fluent. She was quite fluent in French though needed a brush up on grammar. German would be slightly more difficult, but the languages would be very helpful on their five year round the world sail, scheduled for a year from now. She had taken the HAM radio exam the week before. Becoming a HAM had not proven difficult. Doreen, besides being a beauty and a gifted dancer, possessed a photographic memory. She had not a clue about how the radio worked, but she aced the HAM exam because she remembered every word. Not what the words meant, mind you, but in general how they were strung together. Morse code was a snap. She could tap out an SOS at the drop of a winch handle. Doreen expected her knowledge of celestial navigation, languages and her expertise as a HAM radio operator to make her irreplaceable on the cruise.
While Max was gone, Doreen fielded the many phone calls which kept the boat’s phone line busy. She took careful messages and made sure Frank got every single one. Only once had she allowed herself to puzzle, with her best friend, over the unique names of some of Max’s business acquaintances. Honey and Bunny called often. Doreen decided the women must have come from the South where those names were more common than in Southern California. It was a topic upon which she did not linger.
On Tuesday, Max called to say he would be in at five the next evening. Doreen, as was her habit, sprang into motion. She had already prepared the boat for his homecoming. The boat deck was scrubbed, the brass shined. Every bit of wood had been lovingly oiled. Below, the galley was spotless. She quickly made dinner reservations at one of Max’s favorite restaurants and returned to the completion of her preparations.
Allotting time for shopping the next morning, Doreen made an appointment at the hair salon for early Wednesday afternoon. By four-thirty Wednesday, she was almost ready. She carefully placed two silver combs in her gleaming golden curls. Her hair cascaded over suntanned shoulders and down her trim back. Her makeup was flawless, a hint of blush, smoky eyes, lipstick which accented her full pouty lips. For the occasion, she had purchased a strappy white sundress which kissed her perfect knees and hugged her slender waist. Sexy, high heel sandals showed off her perfect, new pedicure. A gauzy white scarf accented her slender neck. Doreen felt she had selected just the right ensemble for a night on the town.
A spritz of Chanel, Doreen was ready. Max would be there soon. Feeling anticipatory butterflies in her stomach, she climbed the companionway into the cockpit. Shielding her eyes against the sun, she dug into her haute couture handbag for Dior sunglasses. Slipping the sunglasses onto her nose and slinging her bag onto her shoulder, Doreen straightened her back and smiled, she looked beautiful and elegant. That was important. Max would be pleased.
Doreen stepped off the boat onto the wooden pier a with a dancer’s grace. Her timing was perfect. In the parking lot she could see her husband’s blond head exiting the taxi which had brought him from the airport. She smiled and sashayed down the long pier to meet her man. He would be glad to see her, glad to be home. Head high, shoulders back, hips swaying gracefully; she accepted the appreciative glances from her neighbors on adjoining docks. With a fun loving, infectious smile and queenly wave she greeted all and accepted their compliments with lighthearted banter. Hearing her voice, several boaters bounded up their companionways to shout hello.
As Doreen reached the end of the pier, her right heel caught in the planking. She reached down to free the heel and felt the combs slip from her hair. An ominous plop indicated one comb had gone for a swim. Grabbing for the other, Doreen lost her balance and felt the crack of a breaking heel. Lunching for her purse as it slipped from her shoulder, she tumbled to the deck. The Dior sunglasses toppled off her nose and followed the errant comb into the oily bay.
Doreen picked herself up with a laugh, brushed at her torn, dirty dress, reconstructed her smile and continued up the pier. From on land, Max looked down to see his wife, tangled hair obscuring her face, limping clumsily down the pier in a dirty, torn dress. From one hand dangled a broken heel. Her designer bag hung forlornly around her neck like an albatross. As she neared, Doreen looked up the dock at Max who was walking towards her. Her cheery smile was distorted by smeared pink lipstick making her face look like a Picasso print. “Welcome home, Darling,” she trilled, “We have reservations at George’s.”
Max reached down to rescue the end of Doreen’s scarf, which was dragging off her shoulder and shredding on the splintery planks of the pier. He leaned down to give her a peck on the cheek as he placed a steadying arm around her. As they made their way back to their boat, Doreen smiled cheerfully and waved her broken heel in greeting as she limped past the neighboring boats. The neighbors waved back, affectionately.
“I’ll change and be ready to go in a sec,” Doreen said. As she disappeared into the cabin, the phone began to ring. She could hear Max’s gruff voice grow soft. She was applying a last coat of mascara when he joined her in their cabin. “Ya know, Sweetheart, I think we should put off dinner until tomorrow,” Max said. “That was John Bowman. He and Stewart are meeting for a drink at six to talk over the new business plan. They want me to join them.”